A Beingless Being
But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:13-14a
It may seem odd to discuss God as a beingless being in a series about the Faces of God. The following will sound more like a discussion of a faceless God. In fact, that is exactly what I intend to convey. The reader will have to wade through the obscure language, as I know of no other way to communicate this foundational, undefinable aspect of God.
A being implies someone who can be known, described, and even predicted, at least to an extent. Human beings can be known, at least to a degree that is usually comfortable. Even though human beings are created in the image of God, the opposite cannot be completely true. The only place where we know God is created in the image of human beings in the minds of humans; and that God is but the limited image of a limitless being. God, as Spirit, enters and animates all living creatures, including us. Father Richard Rohr, in his daily devotion for April 2, 2017, writes, “Spirit is forever captured in matter, and matter is the place where Spirit shows itself.” God has no visible, tangible, physical being except in and through God’s creation. In the book of Exodus, God speaks to Moses through a burning bush on top of a mountain. The people below see only dark clouds and lightening and hear only thunder. When Moses asks for God’s name to share with the Israelites, God says, “I am who I am.” The Israelites wanted to know God as a being like themselves, but God refused to be known in such a limited way.
All attempts to know or name God ultimately fall short, because once we have given something a name or description, we have limited its being. While we are more comfortable with that which we can describe, God resists confinement to any limited form. God assumes an infinite number of faces. Indeed, this series of Life Notes is exploring some of the ways God manifests to us. None of these faces exposes the entirety of God, but all of them provide glimpses into God’s unfathomable nature. Above all, God is mysterious. Thus, God is a beingless being – God cannot be known as we know another person, the trees of the forest, or the ingredients for our favorite casserole. In this sense, God remains distant from our conscious understanding. Yet, God lives and experiences through us, so God is also closer than our next breath. When we look at the infinite variety and diversity in nature, and when we understand that God expresses in every part of creation, we begin to imagine the incomprehensible vastness of God’s beingless being.
God is a God of endless possibilities, not an unchangeable rock. Even rocks change over time. Even mountains crumble. Rivers change course. Our limited experience of time makes some things of the earth appear eternal, but that is simply not true in the context of eternity. If there is a constant quality to God, it is that God is constantly changing, shifting, and forever creating new tapestries of being. God shepherds all of creation through the on-going process of birth, growth, death, and rebirth, ever transforming everything into something new. Being less; being more; simply being.
God will be what God will be.
Note: this is the fifth in a series of Life Notes on the Faces of God.